Old Rag, SDVNP, VA
Updated: Dec 20, 2022
Through some key words like summit scramble, bouldering, or epic views into any search engine out on the east coast and you'll find yourself pouring into reviews and pictures hailing this iconic Virginian hike really pumping it up. We were not disappointed either. A short 2.5 hour drive from Baltimore , granted pending your day/time of departure from our harbor city you could find yourself adding some travel time as it goes right through DC, and you're in rolling greens.
We rolled into the overflow parking early afternoon on a Saturday immediately feeling the tortuous summer heat sweltering in the air. A short path later we were at the trail head of this far from raggedy trail. The path slopes up and you walk beneath beautiful towering lush greens for a moderate 3-ish miles ;the signs didn't super match with our iwatch gps but all is good for a day of wood walks. It was a very mild incline which was much appreciated after having hiked breathless slopes in the west. Until eventually you begin to find your hands on rocks and a greater emphasis on lateral climbing with the whole body. It starts easy enough, a few big rocks to climb up and over here and there until you're fully immersed in rock caverns, crawl spaces, and mini canyons.
Among one of our first ladders someone calmly warns of a snake that retreated between the rocks - to which I for one can not contain any resemblance of calamity in the event of anything to do with snakes- I let out a totally autonomous shriek and my eyes narrow in on my steps ahead, my heart rate elevated quicker than the trail gain itself, and found myself walking at a much faster pace away than when we arrived at this juncture. I was reinvigorated of sorts. We climb , absolutely drenched in sweat from the humidity, until we reach a false summit affixed on a series of rock tops peering out over the valleys below. We had not felt any sense of crowding on the trail up until this point but here we all worked together shouting out " where's the blue line ...we have to find the blue" as it all seemed to fuse together between rock holes and gaps. Eventually we found the trail and one by one dropped and crawled through the rocks - from here on it became a bit of a single file line as fitness levels and comfortability ahead really held the pace hostage there wasn't much room for passing. Never the less, it was incredibly captivating and required presence in its path. At times we were pressing legs and arms between two rock walls to sort of shimmy up - technical? Perhaps not, but fun - absolutely!
We took the loop down and elected to not climb down the fun bouldering segments we ascended on due to the nature of the traffic of people. It was a calm easy descent, at points on a well dirt pathed road, that really allowed for reflection and appreciation without having to mind to closely on footing which is worth appreciation in itself.
One avid point to make is that there is NO - i mean absolutely zero, service anywhere near this trailhead so it is pretty paramount to have your maps downloaded for your return or onward movement. It took us nearly a half an hour to get enough service of any sort to work our route back out and as two hungry and sweaty humans we didn't appreciate that a whole lot. I'm also someone who respects "No dog trails" even if I hate it but in this case our dogs, as athletic and adventurous as they are, would have hated this for sure there were sections we were pretty much integrating our V1 climbs. Either way, all in all a totally worthwhile day trip from the pits of downtown Baltimore to the heavens of Old Rag's stony summit - totally look forward to some future hikes in the Valley.
Happy Travels <3